How to Find Meaning

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Has there been a time recently when someone has said or done something to you and you’ve thought “that’s not fair”? Or have you recently watched the news and thought about how unfortunate someone is – and then realising that it’s because of some kind of systematic failure?

Conversely, do you find that sometimes you treat others unfairly? Have you ever blamed someone else for their circumstances without a second thought?

Both of these are reactions to injustice. Jesus says this about it:

“Rich1 are those who hunger and thirst for justice2, for they will be filled!”

There are two reactions I think most people would have to this. You might be the kind of person who hears this and thinks: “no matter what I do, there’s never any real change”. Or, you might be the kind of person who hears this and thinks “I don’t have the [insert reason here!] to help with that issue right now”.

Both of these are understandable reactions – especially when we’re instantly aware of everything going on in the world around us, all the time, thanks to 24/7 news and social media. I think that one often leads to the other – I can’t do anything, so I won’t do anything. It’s too complicated.

The Good News

Well, the bad news is that it isn’t easy to care. It hurts. But as I mentioned in my previous post about lament, sometimes experiencing grief is a good thing. Sometimes the benefit of that grief isn’t to help you to come to terms with something (though that can help), it’s actually to empower you to find the desire within yourself to help do something about it.

Sometimes justice simply looks like making sure that the lady struggling to carry their shopping because they’re trying to balance it with three kids, no husband, and leg injury gets a helping hand. Sometimes it’s working for a worldwide NGO fighting the spread of diseases. Sometimes it’s something in between. Mother Teresa said that we can’t do great things, only “small things with great love”.

The good news is that seeking after such things – putting our energy into them – is rewarding. Things eventually do change. Society does move forward. It doesn’t always feel that way, but if you look back over history, you’ll see that it is true. There’s satisfaction to be found in that. But only if you’ve been hungering and thirsting for it. You’ll also find that amongst the stress and difficulty of fighting against injustice – and let’s be honest – there’s plenty of that – you’ll find yourself recognising just how worthwhile the cause is, and above all, you’ll find some meaning.

A favourite poet of mine3 says that you’ll “find meaning where you give meaning”. Often, striving for “meaning” is at the root of a lot of anxiety and insecurity in the middle class, western world.

Putting ourselves at the centre of fighting for a better world – however large or small a part we play – is a great way to find meaning. Maybe we’re essentially here to help each other to enjoy our lives?

 

Living It

  • The next time you feel overwhelmed by an injustice, think about the bigger picture. Perhaps if you can find the strength to contribute, it’ll get that one step closer to its resolution.
  • Look out for the little injustices. Some are more obvious than others – we’re all predisposed to noticing different things. When you spot something, why not play your part?
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Ben is one of the founders and editors of New Roots. When he isn’t managing the web site, he can usually be found working on his web design agency or down the pub discussing theology.

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